The book: Learning to Fly, by Roxanne Henke
The edition: Harvest House paperback, 354 pages, plus reading guide
The story: following the relationship between Susan and her daughter Lily from the moment of birth through to first year in college. Susan is filled with doubts and never really feels at ease with motherhood; but her trials and successes are confronted with those, very different, her friend JoJo goes through with her daughter Tiffany, who has her own set of difficulties with the mother-daughter relationship.
My experience with the book & my thoughts: this book delivers exactly what it promises: a nice, compelling story about motherhood. It may be a little too much in the way of giving one good and one bad example, a dualist black-and-white world where either you are the perfect couple or your children are inevitably spoiled brats; and the bad example turns a little extreme at times. But still, I could understand Susan reactions and enjoy her story. There’s a lot of food for thought here.
Side note: this is a Christian fiction novel, but it didn’t bother me much, it was done in a way I can appreciate.
The part with spoilers: the problem for me was that it never really went into the reasons why. Why would Tiffany and Lily turn out so opposite? Different upbringing, right, but while I could see JoJo’s mistakes, and her husband’s absence, they were just too plain, and there was no explanation of why JoJo would handle her children the way she did (except for having more than one, that is). When JoJo and Tiffany go to Susan’s house for the first time, it looks like she will change things, teach JoJo a thing or two… but she only ends up saying something when the girls are in their teens, way too late. So what was the supposed friendship between the two women about?
What I liked: a good description of the different feelings of motherhood.
What I didn’t like: too much focus on the mother-daughter relationship alone, to the point of effacing everyone else. Grandparents only appear at first birthday and Thanksgivings; even fathers are only dwelt upon when they need to discipline children, while for most of the book it looks like these two women are in parenthood alone.
Language & writing: I may be picky, but it sounded like the author was a driving instructor in a previous life (I’m joking here!), with all the step by step description of how everyone drove.
In the author’s own words: I loved this description of motherhood:
Nothing had felt this… this… important.
All the kidding around we’d done about becoming parents seemed like immature babbling as I looked down at this child we’d somehow created.
Oh, yes, there was no doubt in my mind God had everything to do with this. There was no way Seth or I could have ever done something so remarkable on our own.
And just to show you what I meant, here’s the driving-instructor speaking through the author 🙂 (just to be clear: this is all in the same scene, almost all on the same page):
I shifted in my seat, cast a glance into the backseat to make sure Lily was okay, then took a deep, deep breath. At least I could still breathe. I put the car into reverse and backed out of the mall parking spot. […] I shifted into drive and slowly pressed my foot on the gas pedal. […] I pushed on my turn signal and headed out of the parking lot. […] I pressed my foot a little harder on the pedal
Random thought and question: one thing sounded strange to me: that the moment the children enter college is felt as a termination of motherhood. As if one was supposed to be a mother from birth to the moment they leave home for college (or for something else, but at the same age anyway). In my feeling, the parting is much less defined, and it needn’t be at that age, it could be well before and well after. Is that the way motherhood is seen in the USA?
Read this if: if you are looking for a book about motherhood, this is a nice one.
Counts as: One! Two! Theme! Challenge – Pregnancy and Motherhood #3; What’s in a Name Challenge – movement